Hispanic group kicks off voter registration campaign in Florida

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University campus director Carlos Lopez cautioned that registering is one thing, but turnout is most important.

“A lot of people register, but come election day they don’t vote,” he said. “We can’t stop this campaign until the last day. Vote for who you want — it’s nonpartisan — but go out and vote.”

To stress the nonpartisan nature of the voter drive, both Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado and Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia spoke at the kickoff, with Plasencia stressing how important voting should be for young people.

“Often times, young people don’t think anything they do has an impact in their present life,” he said before the event. “What I did as a teacher, and what I continue to do when I’m talking to the community, is show them how voting affects their day-to-day lives.”

While the focus of many voters is on presidential politics, “the majority of decisions that impact their everyday lives are made where they live,” Plasencia said. “County commission, school board, state Legislature and government officials.”

Mercado touched on what has been a major issue with the Hispanic voting population in Florida, the tendency to register as unaffiliated and not with a major party. While it allows a measure of independence, she said it locks many Hispanics out of important party primaries.

“They can’t tell you this because they’re a nonprofit … but it is very important to understand this nation, this state still functions on a two-party system,” Mercado said. “If you do not choose a party, that is definitely your choice, but it’s also going to restrict the people you see on your ballot. … A good number of the people making decisions for you, especially on a local level, are taken care of by August.”

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